Monday, March 10, 2008

Mar 10/08 | On Lethal Computer Files and Their Consequences: Hugo's Own Rope

What armament does Colombia have that we have been ordered to retreat?
3 Laptops

PMBComment: Jackson Diehl, Deputy Editorial Page Editor of the WashPost, poses the real question of the day: What do we do now with Mr. Chávez? Now refers to after we have come upon a treasure trove of evidence to proof - beyond reasonable doubt - his deep and criminal alliance with the FARC . The facts spurting out of the four laptops captured in what has turned to be a semana horribilis for the terrorist gang establish a pattern of complicity hard to match in the annals of state collaboration with terrorists. The match between technology and savagery has yielded evidence that, as Diehl states forcefully, cannot be ignored by anyone, much less the administration that has made fighting terrorism its motto and be all.

For the past few years, the post-Noriega period, the Bush administration has shown a cerebral ability to avoid satisfying Mr. Chávez's dream of a mano-a-mano confrontation with the "Devil", George W. Bush, himself or his top surrogates for that case. Credit is deserved for the discipline this entailed and the success the policy has brought. The fact is that Chávez is hounded now by his own deeds and rejected in growing numbers by his own people. This turn of events is not the fault of the "'evil empire", this is all Mr. Chávez's handiwork. He is rejected by a growing number of his counterparts in the region and the world - with the few exceptions of those that are addicted to his cash, and this is not the result of any US strategy other than refusing to provide smoke to the screen Mr. Chávez was trying to build to cover his true colors. The US President, strong-willed as ever, has refused to even pronounce Mr. Chávez's name when asked such point blank question as "Who is the President of Venezuela? This entire policy stance has yielded success, congratulations Mr. President, Ms. Rice, Mr.Hadley, Mr. Shannon and Mr. Fisk, now lets focus on the facts in the laptops of his Neanderthal allies in the FARC. Mr. Chávez must be brought to justice without causing further suffering on his people who although responsible for his election are defenseless in a country with no legal recourse left. Mr. Chávez and his cronies, starting with the Interior Minister Rodriguez Chacin are the well deserving guinea pigs for smart sanctions, and this means laser precision that punishes the guilty and spares the rest. Venezuela has a monumental reconstruction task ahead, we will need the help of the international community for sure, but before this task can begin we need the help of the world in ridding the country of the criminals that attempted to hoodwink all and almost succeeded. PMB
The Washington Post

The FARC's Guardian Angel

By Jackson Diehl
Monday, March 10, 2008; A15

Latin American nations and the Bush administration spent the past week loudly arguing over what censure, if any, Colombia should face for a bombing raid that killed one of the top leaders of the FARC terrorist group at a jungle camp in Ecuador. More quietly, they are just beginning to consider a far more serious and potentially explosive question: What to do about the revelation that Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez forged a strategic alliance with the FARC aimed at Colombia's democratic government.

First reports of the documents recovered from laptops at the FARC camp spoke of promises by Chávez to deliver up to $300 million to a group renowned for kidnapping, drug trafficking and massacres of civilians; they also showed that Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa was prepared to remove from his own army officers who objected to the FARC's Ecuadoran bases.

But in their totality, the hundreds of pages of documents so far made public by Colombia paint an even more chilling picture. The raid appears to have preempted a breathtakingly ambitious "strategic plan" agreed on by Chávez and the FARC with the initial goal of gaining international recognition for a movement designated a terrorist organization by both the United States and Europe. Chávez then intended to force Colombian President Álvaro Uribe to negotiate a political settlement with the FARC, and to promote a candidate allied with Chávez and the FARC to take power from Uribe.

All this is laid out in a series of three e-mails sent in February to the FARC's top leaders by Iván Márquez and Rodrigo Granda, envoys who held a series of secret meetings with Chávez. Judging from the memos, Chávez did most of the talking: He outlined a five-stage plan for undermining Uribe's government, beginning with the release of several of the scores of hostages the FARC is holding.

The first e-mail, dated Feb. 8, discusses the money: It says that Chávez, whom they call "angel," "has the first 50 [million] available and has a plan to get us the remaining 200 in the course of the year." Chávez proposed sending the first "packet" of money "through the black market in order to avoid problems." He said more could be arranged by giving the FARC a quota of petroleum to sell abroad or gasoline to retail in Colombia or Venezuela.

Chávez then got to the plans that most interested him. He wanted the FARC to propose collecting all of its hostages in the open, possibly in Venezuela, for a proposed exchange for 500 FARC prisoners in Colombian jails. Chávez said he would travel to the area for a meeting with the FARC's top leader, Manuel Marulanda, and said the presidents of Ecuador, Nicaragua and Bolivia would accompany him. Meanwhile, Chávez said he would set up a new diplomatic group, composed of those countries and the FARC, plus Mexico, Brazil and Argentina, for the purpose of recognizing the FARC as a legitimate "belligerent" in Colombia and forcing Uribe into releasing its prisoners.

In "the early morning hours," the FARC envoys recounted in a Feb. 9 e-mail, Chávez reached the subject of whether the release of Ingrid Betancourt, a former Colombian presidential candidate who is the FARC's best-known hostage, would complicate his plan to back a pro-FARC alternative to Uribe. "He invites the FARC to participate in a few sessions of analysis he has laid out for following the Colombian political situation," the e-mail concluded.

Assuming these documents are authentic -- and it's hard to believe that the cerebral and calculating Uribe would knowingly hand over forgeries to the world media and the Organization of American States -- both the Bush administration and Latin American governments will have fateful decisions to make about Chávez. His reported actions are, first of all, a violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1373, passed in September 2001, which prohibits all states from providing financing or havens to terrorist organizations. More directly, the Colombian evidence would be more than enough to justify a State Department decision to cite Venezuela as a state sponsor of terrorism. Once cited, Venezuela would be subject to a number of automatic sanctions, some of which could complicate its continuing export of oil to the United States. A cutoff would temporarily inconvenience Americans -- and cripple Venezuela, which could have trouble selling its heavy oil in other markets.

For now, the Bush administration appears anxious to avoid this kind of confrontation. U.S. intelligence agencies are analyzing the Colombian evidence; officials say they will share any conclusions with key Latin American governments. Yet those governments have mostly shrunk from confronting Chávez in the past, and some have quietly urged Bush to take him on. If the president decides to ignore clear evidence that Venezuela has funded and conspired with an officially designated terrorist organization, he will flout what has been his first principle since Sept. 11, 2001.

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Mar 10/08 | Merengue in Rio Summit: A Soap Opera Ending to a Story that Has Just Started

Friends again? Not for long!

Many have written to ask my opinion about what happened in the Grupo de Rio Summit in Dominican Republic. First, I have stated that what happened was so tropical that only in the land of merengue could you witness a scene of enemies embracing minutes after hurling ferocious accusations and insults at each other. The only problem adverted was that of a remote military escalation of the conflict between Colombia-Ecuador. The diplomatic crisis would have been solved in any case a week later in the extraordinary meeting of the OAS Foreign Ministers. An OAS resolution already proved that there was willingness to only go so far in censuring Colombia for killing a thug supported politically and economically by those acting as victims.

For Uribe it was a platform to state his case first as a deliberate prosecutor and then as a passionate democrat. For Chávez is was a place to raise a white flag and buy time. For President Correa a showcase to demonstrate that he was out of his league. For President Calderon an opportunity to shine as a quasi statesman from an important country that has to live with these curious neighbors. For President Bachelet an opportunity to get back at Chávez for damaging her show at the Iberoamerican Summit. For President Fernandez de Kirchner a chance to prove that the negative effects of Botox are more than skin deep. And for the host, Lionel Fernandez, it was an opportunity to show why the DR has become a top tourist destination: hot days always end up with fun and dance.

The REAL issue of sovereign states in the hemisphere who support the FARC was not touched, so the REAL problem was not solved. That is how this comment got its title and conclusion.

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Mar 04/08 | Mr. Chavez's Plan A in Motion: A Truly B&W Affair

Hugo and FARC's Ivan Marquez: Till death do them apart?

PMBComment: many in the world and most within Venezuela's rudderless opposition have claimed that Hugo Chavez is overreaching as a way to distract attention from his ever spiraling domestic troubles. I beg to disagree. What we are witnessing is the accelerated and sloppy execution of Lt. Col. Chavez's Plan A. Fearing that time is no longer on his side, Mr. Chavez, with the help of such bizarre and clueless allies as Mr. Sarkozy, has set into motion the last stage of his grand design. Readers of this commentaries will recognize that over the years I have alerted to the fact that Uribe's head had a reserved place above Mr. Chavez mantelpiece.

The Bolivarian revolution would not be truly Bolivarian if it were not expansive and if it lacked a foreign enemy to justify it. The empire this time is not Spain but the US and it happens to be be as stuck in Colombia as it is in those other terrorist hotbeds Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr. Chavez is taking advantage of a fully justified raid on derelict Ecuador to go on the offensive. If he does not move fast now he might end up cornered by the type of evidence Colombia, the US and others have always had but had failed to expose publicly. Now that they have the excuse of a few laptops that somehow survived the bombardment of Mr. Reyes command center, the cat is out of the bag and the President many in the world "tolerated" due to the fact that he was "democratically" elected has been exposed as the dangerous fomenter of trouble and funder of terrorist we have always accused him of being.

How will this crisis end? Badly. Mr. Chavez as a mediocre mid-level military officer does not respond well to political incentives o disincentives. His world is black or white. A negotiation is perceived as a defeat and therefore unacceptable. He has now played his final card - move the troops and threaten war - and it points to chaos. His military is so divided that it might precipitate his exit without obvious replacement. The composition of forces and the deep entrenchment of foreign and criminal elements in Venezuela does not bode well for the future governability of Venezuela. This is a foretold ending, one which many in the region, including the Colombians themselves, had chosen to ignore. The OAS, weakened by years of complacency, will try to intervene but it is too late and frightened and formulaic diplomats are no match for the deeds and consequences of the man they have carelessly ignored over the years. PMB

Note: below a good editorial from today's Wall Street Journal


Chávez's 'War' Drums
March 4, 2008

Colombia's military scored a major antiterror victory this weekend by killing the second in command of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and 16 other FARC guerrillas. Venezuelan President and FARC ally Hugo Chávez has reacted by threatening war against Bogotá. But the real news is that the raid produced a laptop computer belonging to the expired comandante that reveals some of Mr. Chávez's secrets.

The raid that killed FARC big Raúl Reyes shocked the terrorists because it happened in Ecuador -- about a mile across the border from Colombia. The guerrillas are used to operating inside Colombia, only to escape to safe havens in Ecuador and Venezuela when Colombia's military is in hot pursuit. This time Colombian officers kept going, and for legitimate reasons of self-defense. (We doubt the U.S. would stop its troops at the border if terrorists were bombing sites in Texas from havens in Mexico.)

Mr. Chávez rushed to insist that Ecuador's sovereignty had been violated, even before Ecuador did. On his weekly television show on Sunday, the Venezuelan bully called the death of Reyes a "cowardly assassination" and observed a moment of silence. He closed the Venezuelan embassy in Bogotá, ordered 10 battalions with tanks to the Colombian border, and warned of war if the Colombian army staged a similar raid inside Venezuela.

Such a conventional war isn't likely. Colombia today has a superior military force, thanks in part to Mr. Chávez's purge of his own officer corp as a way to minimize risks of a coup d'etat against him. The war bluster is especially phony because Mr. Chavez is already waging his own guerrilla campaign against Colombia through his support for the FARC. The FARC's "foreign minister," Rodrigo Granda, was nabbed three years ago by bounty hunters in Caracas, where he was living comfortably, and a former Venezuelan military officer told us years ago that the army was instructed not to pursue the FARC in the Venezuelan jungle.

What may really have upset Mr. Chávez is the capture of Reyes's laptop. According to Colombia's top police official, General Oscar Naranjo, the computer contains evidence supporting the claim that the FARC is working with Mr. Chávez. General Naranjo said Monday that Reyes's laptop records showed that Venezuela may have paid $300 million to the FARC in exchange for its recent release of six civilian hostages. Mr. Chávez had spun those releases as a triumph of his personal mediation.

General Naranjo said the laptop also contains documents showing that the FARC was seeking to buy 50 kilos of uranium, and the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo has reported that the records revealed the sale of 700 kilograms of cocaine valued at $1.5 million. The general added that the military found a thank-you note from Mr. Chávez to the FARC for some $150,000 that the rebels had sent him when he was in prison for his attempted coup d'etat in 1992.

Ecuador, an ally of Mr. Chávez, was slow to express outrage at the Colombian raid but eventually came around. Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa said that the rebels were "bombed and massacred as they slept, using precision technology." He is right about that -- which is why the FARC's friends are so angry.

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